Chatham farmer joins mother N.C. State Fair Hall of Fame

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RALEIGH — When Dora Owens was told she was selected as an inductee into this year’s North Carolina State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame, she was surprised.

Owens, 59, now joins her mother, Ruth Weaver, 85, as the first mother-daughter Livestock Hall of Fame inductees. Weaver was inducted in 1985. The pair, along with other family members, is part of a family-run dairy goat operation, known as Walstone Farm in Chatham County.

“I’m a bit puzzled,” she said of the honor. “I’m the secretary. My job is limited mostly to doing all the paperwork.”

It turns out that “paperwork” is a big part of both managing the family goat farm as well as Owen’s work as secretary of the State Fair’s annual Hall of Fame Show featuring pedigree dairy goats from across North Carolina and other states.

“She’s an accountant,” Weaver said of her daughter. “She does all the financial work for us; manages all the money and keeps the records straight. It’s quite a job to keep things straight. She has been secretary of the State Fair’s show. She has been at the desk for at least 30 years.”

The family also have been showing their goats, known as Alpine pure breeds, since about 1980, Weaver said. On the farm, the family raises goats primarily for milk. Owens and Weaver are big proponents of goat milk, singing its praises as a cure for almost whatever ails you. Weaver and her late husband, Luby Weaver, started their dairy goat operation in the 1970s for health reasons after several family members had special protein needs and allergies to cow’s milk.

“Children do better if they have goat milk; fewer stomach issues,” Weaver said. “I can sleep a whole lot better if I have a glass of goat milk before bed. We’re big believers in the value of goat milk.”

Owens said she enjoyed the Hall of Fame induction ceremony held during this year’s State Fair in Raleigh, which ran for 11 days from Oct. 14 through Sunday.

“It was nice,” Owens said. “I don’t do a whole lot of social event sort of things. There were a lot of nice folks there, and I got to see the Commissioner of Agriculture (Steve Troxler), so it was nice to talk to him being at The State Fair where he has a lot of demands on his time.

“Usually when you’re support, that’s not what people notice ... so that was a nice surprise. They’re honoring people for their support of North Carolina agriculture.”

At Walstone, it’s Weaver who does a lot of the hands-on work with the herd that usually numbers 12 to 15 goats. Son Brian Weaver farms about 65 acres of hay crops, some of which are used for feed for the goats.

At present, Weaver milks four does each morning at 8 and again around 6 p.m. The does average between 150 and 200 or more pounds, she said. Each doe produces up to two gallons of milk per day, enough milk that Owens said she also feeds some of the milk to the family’s pigs.

At 85, Weaver knows she is not your average octogenarian working up to 3 hours a day, 7 days a week, caring for a herd of dairy goats. “That’s why I get out of bed in the morning,” she said. “What else is there to do?”

Weaver said she does get a break during the January and February “dry season” between breeding cycles when the milking is on hold. Weaver turns 86 next June 19, and she doesn’t have any plans to slow down on her farming.

She’s also proud her daughter has now joined her in the Fair’s Livestock Hall of Fame.

“Oh gracious, yes,” Weaver said of how proud she is of Owens. “She is very particular about everything she does. She’s good at anything she does. She’s also a musician. Anything you can name she can play it. She started out with the bassoon in high school, and now she’s playing the harp.”

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